Scotland's first medical cannabis clinic has been approved by regulators.
Sapphire Medical Clinic, located in Stirling, is the first medical cannabis clinic licensed by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to provide secure access to medical cannabis for patients in Scotland.
Medical cannabis has been legalized in the UK in November 2018, allowing doctors to prescribe it in certain situations. The clinic will start by offering virtual appointments. Face-to-face consultations will follow when Covid restrictions allow. The clinic was originally supposed to open in Aberdeen center but it will operate in premises on the outskirts of the city.
The Scottish government has said it has no influence on prescribing and the decision to prescribe the drug rests with specialist clinicians. The change in law moved cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Drug Abuse Regulations, 2001 - meaning it has no therapeutic value - to Schedule 2. This category includes controlled drugs. but having recognized medical use and may be prescribed in certain circumstances.
Sapphire Medical Managing Director, Dr Mikael Sodergren, said: “We are delighted to be the first to obtain marketing authorization: 'We are delighted to be the first clinic to be registered with HIS, demonstrating the robust clinical governance framework we have established to assess patients for medical cannabis treatment.
“By collecting clinical results through the UK Medical Cannabis Registry, we will significantly contribute to the evidence base and ultimately enable more patients to benefit from medical cannabis as a treatment option. "
Cannabis-based medicines can come in the form of whole cannabis flowers, oils or capsules, or a single compound that can be isolated and extracted. Multiple sclerosis patients and parents of children with severe epilepsy are among those who have struggled to gain access to these drugs.
Cole, Lisa Quarrell's eight-year-old son, has a rare form of severe epilepsy and suffered up to 20 seizures a day before he was prescribed cannabis oil. Her mother, from East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire, originally obtained the drug in Holland, but now has a private prescription.
She welcomed the first Scottish clinic.
She told BBC Scotland: 'This will not change my situation as my current problem is purely funding or access to the NHS. However, it will be easier for desperate parents to gain access to this wonderful drug.
“Many parents are forced to take the only solution offered by NHS Scotland, brain surgery, or go against their clinicians to seek a safer solution on their own. Not only is this drug still not available on the NHS, clinicians don't even want to discuss it, so parents are terrified of asking to be allowed to try it. "https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-56475596
She added: “This is a step in the right direction and it means that there will finally be a safe path for frightened parents to take. "
Andie Connolly-Brown, 41, of Edinburgh, suffers from complex PTSD and anxiety.
She tried a series of conventional therapies. She said: “Having access to medical cannabis is a lifeline for me. My anxiety, in particular, has been compounded by the Covid-19 lockdown, so safe and affordable access to medical cannabis is welcome. "
A Scottish government spokesperson said: 'The programming of medicinal cannabis products (CBPM) is reserved for the UK government and the Scottish government does not have the power to change its status. We welcome the UK government's decision to allow doctors on the GMC's Specialist Register to prescribe such products when there is clear published evidence of their benefits.
“The decision of whether or not to prescribe a drug to a patient, and which drug to prescribe, rests entirely with the clinician in charge of the patient's care, after taking into account the patient's clinical condition and safety. Whether it's an NHS clinician or a clinician working in a private clinic.
“The decision whether or not to seek private treatment is up to the patient or the caregiver. If they do, they are responsible for paying the costs incurred. "